A day in the Life of Darlene ~ Recognizing the Origin of Self Blame

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Overcoming self blame by seeing where it comes from“It wasn’t just that I didn’t know what I was feeling; I was also afraid to acknowledge my feelings in case they were wrong. Survival for me had become about making sure that I didn’t do or say the wrong thing”. Darlene Ouimet

This morning my husband needed me to pick him up at one of our hay fields where he was dropping off his semi in preparation to haul some hay. The ground is covered in several inches of snow here and the last couple of days have been mild and the snow is very heavy, wet and slippery now. He pulled into the field in the Semi and I was driving the pick-up truck close behind.  I was trying to ‘guess’ where he was going to park the Semi with the good intention of picking him up to avoid making him trek on foot through the snow.  I advanced into the field and he held his hand up to alert me to ‘stop’ where I was. I felt uncomfortable.

He seemed to be driving the semi in random patterns and I jumped to the conclusion that I must have gotten in his way when I drove into the field. I assumed that he was trying to back the Semi up to the haystack, but he couldn’t because I was parked in between the Semi and the stack. I tried to get out of the way but I realized it was really slippery and I was starting to get stuck in the snow. On top of that, I didn’t know exactly where to ‘go’ now and I didn’t want to make things worse, so I just stayed where I was.

I became aware of my old default mode coming up. My old default mode operated under the belief that I could never do the right thing and that I always did something stupid when I was trying to help. I felt my face get a little hot. I imagined that my husband was frustrated that I was in his way and that I should have known better than to follow him into the field before he backed the Semi up to the hay stack.  

The old self talk started and it was even mixed with the new self-talk and went something like this: “Shit. Why do I always do the wrong thing? Well why does he always expect me to read his mind? I was only trying to help. And now I have parked in his way and I think my truck is stuck! I hate his hand signals. I hate trying to guess where I am supposed to be. I am the only one in this whole farming community who never caught on to what everyone is trying to do in the field or how to stay out of the way. I bet Jim’s mother would have known where to park. No wonder I hate farming. No wonder I hate bringing supper to the field… It’s not my fault that I can’t read minds…”  

And then my NEW way of sorting things out kicked in. I reminded myself of where this whole insecurity thing originated. Living in a dysfunctional family system I was taught or rather ‘expected’ to mind read for the sake of survival. I was constantly trying to figure out what other people wanted me to do by constantly guessing what would keep me the safest out of fear of the consequences of making the wrong choice. Anticipating what someone else wanted was something that had been taught to me through the actions and attitudes of others. Saying or doing the wrong thing could get me punished, rejected or beaten. And the rules of engagement were NEVER clear.

The anxiety that came up in the field was what I call “a leftover from the past”.  I was worried about doing the wrong thing because of the consequences in the past when I did the wrong thing. Furthermore, when I did the wrong thing in the past people used it to prove that I was stupid. They rolled their eyes and made frustrated sighing noises. They acted like I had ruined their day just by being in it. And I thought they were right! I felt like a burden and I berated myself for never doing anything right. Living in that system it is only a matter of time before a person is afraid to make ANY move for fear of making the wrong move. I was frozen in the fear of reprimand, humiliation and rejection.

Realizing that I had slid back into my old default mode, I started to relax and did some positive self-talk.  Jim finally parked the Semi by the entrance of the field. I put the pic-up truck in gear only to find out that I was indeed stuck in the snow. I felt stupid again for a brief second but then assured myself that it could happen to anyone and it was ‘no big deal’. My husband Jim never actually gets mad at me for anything like this so my fear is ‘in truth’ unreasonable and totally rooted in the past and in my childhood survival mode.

Jim had to slug through the snow on foot to reach where I was parked and as he took over the driving position from me in order to get the truck unstuck, he explained that he kept getting stuck in the Semi and that was why he was driving in random patterns all over the field. J

I had never considered that option…..

The Truth was that HE was having problems in the snow and his driving all over the field had nothing to do with where I parked or with anything to do with me at all.

Sometimes even today my old default mode comes back. And my old default mode was always to shine the flashlight on ME and to never consider that the problem had nothing to do with me. The whole exchange, the whole event and all the assumptions and fears happened in my mind. Realizing where this faulty thinking originates always helps me to set it straight and set my thinking back to the truth.  Instead of just feeling ‘stupid’ it helps me a great deal to process where those thoughts come from originally.

Please share your thoughts. Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever find yourself totally willing to jump to self-blame or self-reprimand? Have you ever had an entire event happen mostly in your mind and jumped to all the wrong conclusions because of the way you were regarded in the past? Have you thought about where this default mode originated and if that survival mode still serves your best interests today?

Just a little snapshot of a day in the life of… me ~

Darlene Ouimet

Related posts ~ The quote used in this post comes from the article “Why I didn’t know how I felt about anything”

74 response to "A day in the Life of Darlene ~ Recognizing the Origin of Self Blame"

  1. By: Emsie Posted: 9th May

    Ok so how the hell do we start the healing. My self esteem is so low right now and I keep fighting it but it’s unbelievably low.i can’t believe that my past is so present even in my forties!!!

  2. By: Sarah Posted: 5th March

    Feels like you are reading a page right out of my life! I do often find myself playing out entire situations (fights or seeming rejection) completely in my head… to the point of self harm sometimes and when i do finally regain composure, i find out this is not the case at all…The thoughts i assumed they were having or feeling were in fact the opposite. And sometimes i even take it a step further and feel suspect that they’re only saying that to placate me… or just so they can be right. I have a hard time deciphering whether this is due to past experience or fear. Im only new to your site but I’m learning so much already! Thank you is the understatement of the year!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th March

      Hi Sarah
      Welcome to EFB ~ Great to have you here!
      hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Kadeeja Posted: 4th February

    Sorry and thank you are the two words I was taught to use most often. It is so deep rooted that the first thing I did when I was coming out of anesthesia after a surgery was say sorry and thank you to the baffled doctors and nurses. I am always “sorry, its my fault” and “thank you, you are great.” When others are apologizing to me, I dont even let them finish because I have very little respect for myself. It has gotten so bad that sometimes I am blurting out thank you to people for just talking to me and they look at me like I have lost it (it is all probably in my head) and then I feel the great urge to say sorry!! 🙂

  4. By: Nadia Posted: 17th January

    I used to have to deal with this on a daily basis …I would wake up and hope and pray that she was in a good mood….theI would try to read her mind and try to figure out what my expectations were for that moment…after school was worse. I was always afraid to come home late in case she had stuff to do and needed help. She would never ask….I had to read her mind…according to her I should have known. So I would do anything around the house! just to make her happy. I never knew if it was enough. It was so confusing. I just wanted some guidance. It was a mind game with her. It was exhausting…I never knew what she wanted and. I always had to be on Standby…it was horrible.

  5. By: sandra Posted: 30th November

    @Maroe

    About not being likeable: I learned it was bs once i moved from home.
    I am very likeable and I am sure you are as well.
    My mother does not know me even a bit and does not even want to know me: I was LABELED as “Selfish, rebelious, mean, unpleasant, ARROGANT, QUARRELSOME (no Mom I do not have to fight with other people the way I do with you), APODICTIC (apodictit according to you means not following your orders), SNOB (oh I am sorry I chose to be a vegetarian and ear things other than you do), WEIRD (for whatever reasons)”

  6. By: sandra Posted: 30th November

    @Jane
    “I immediately decided that my husband or myself had done something to offend on our last outing or that one of our kids had done something wrong at the home they stayed at while we were out”

    Always
    Sb is in a bad mood, I must have done/said sth wrong.
    It is never “what the heck happened to them?”
    It is me

  7. By: sandra Posted: 30th November

    Darlene, a great example as always.

    Do you ever find yourself totally willing to jump to self-blame or self-reprimand? Yes and Yes.

    I should have know better to do or not to do a certain things. Even when it is evidently sb else’s fault. My sister loves it, it is so convenient, when I finally just say with a smile: “let’s just forget it you are right actually I am the only one to blame, I should have….”
    And than she’d go “see….”, “you NEED to learn this and that”, “you should….”, “why didn’t you”….it is endless.

    The only thing I NEED to do is stop blaming myself when it is not my fault. DO I read other people mind and intentions? They do not come with a warning sign unfortunatelly.

  8. By: Hobie Posted: 29th November

    I made Thanksgiving dinner yesterday for a few friends, along with my husband & myself. I had to congratulate myself when my husband seemed to be moving toward the sink where I was busy with some part of food preparation, and I calmly ASKED if I was in his way, prepared to tell him he’d have to wait for me to finish my task!

    It would look like and old habit to ask if I was in his way, but I used to just assume that I was in the way, stop what I was doing, and leave the kitchen while foaming over with resentment that I didn’t fit in my own damn kitchen!

    So the thought that I am in the way will probably still come up for me. How much better is it to handle it by asking the question instead of making an assumption and getting angry about it? And I recognized that I was the one who had withheld permission to have priority in my own damn kitchen, and I could give myself that permission.

    And my husband had no problem with the question. I think he didn’t need to do anything at the sink anyway.

    The whole day remained so much more peaceful from that one significant shift in perspective!

  9. By: Jane Posted: 29th November

    you know, I just had this experience really recently. As I’ve distanced myself from my FOO, I’ve intentionally tried to create another support system for my family and myself. We have a group at our church with whom we go out to dinner every couple of months or so. We always try to find a new place with a little different twist each time, maybe someplace off the beaten path. It’s fun. The kids all usually hang together at someone’s home. We had talked about a date in September and it came and went. i saw one friend and I mentioned the date that I had saved on my calendar and she was a little vague in her response. I immediately decided that my husband or myself had done something to offend on our last outing or that one of our kids had done something wrong at the home they stayed at while we were out. I felt hurt and like an outcast and like I had no idea what had gone wrong since the last time we were all together everyone seemed to have a great time. I found out only recently that the dinners had sort of come to halt because one of the members of the group had reached out in an inappropriate way to another member’s spouse. I don’t know the details, but the point is that the dinners had stopped and it had nothing at all to do with me or anyone in my family. Those childhood messages that we are always in the wrong are pretty powerful, aren’t they? My friend was vague in her response just because she didn’t want to spread rumors or gossip about these two people, not because of anything I’d done at all. This is a really cool group of friends. Everyone just wants to support the couples involved and not turn the whole thing into something prurient. Which reinforces that I do know how to choose friends wisely.

  10. By: Hobie Posted: 26th November

    I never had to go out to a field covered in snow to feel like I was in the way – I felt that way in my own kitchen when I was making dinner almost every night for decades. My husband would come in to the kitchen to keep me company, which is actually a very sweet and loving thing to do, but if he stood in front of a drawer or cabinet where I needed something, I felt like I was “putting him out” to ask him to move, and yes – felt like I was the one in the way! Never mind that I was cooking for the family.

    And he really never minded moving, and didn’t get angry with me. I never understood why I felt that way or how to change it until I started reading this stuff here in the past several months.

    My “new thinking” is starting to kick in more often, thank you! I just need more practice 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th November

      Hi Hobie
      That’s awesome! That is how it was for me too! The awareness grew as I grew as long as I was willing to keep going forward.
      hugs, Darlene

  11. By: Lora Posted: 26th November

    I have no idea what you are talking about…;-) I’ve learned to laugh at myself more now when stuff like this happens. The best part is when I catch myself when I do start the negative self talk. I love that a part of me loves me so much that it kicks in when things get out of hand.

    Every time I do give myself positive self talk, I also say yes, more of this, I love when you keep things light. I focus on the treatment I do like and I find it shows up more. Turning this all around has been an undertaking and I feel so grateful that I found all these helpful support systems.

    I still have down days but I am finding I’m bouncing back faster because I have a new belief system that supports me.

    Always love your sharing Darlene, you have helped my journey greatly!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th November

      Hi Lora
      Thanks for sharing ~ this is lovely stuff!
      hugs, Darlene

  12. By: DXS (JJ) Posted: 5th June

    Boy, can I relate. If I’m working in a “group” project, and something, ANYTHING goes wrong, I immediately jump to the conclusion that I messed it up. After all, everyone else is smarter than i am, so obviously, I caused the problem.

    This is from a family dynamic of…. when I try to explain my feelings and point out the truth, somehow it’s flipped around and it’s my fault.

  13. By: Gnew Posted: 5th February

    Loved your post. It reminded me of a time when I was growing up (21 now) when after my parents split up my siblings started treating me like an outcast. At that time they were the only people my age that I interacted with and they never missed any chance to make me feel second rate.

    Come to think of it, its evident now how I became so unsure of myself around my peers. It always feels like I must do the perfect thing at any time if I want acceptance. This stuff drains you, and you cant be ever happy. Hpe I can find a way to get over this somehow.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th February

      Hi Gnew
      Welcome to EFB
      Yes, this stuff is exhausting! I gave up on wanting acceptance from the people who always made it clear that I wasn’t going to get it from them. Dealing with this is a process, but that is what this whole site is about!
      Glad you are here.
      Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Katie Posted: 1st February

    I do this every single day. I find my mind wanders over situations that may have occurred minutes, hours, days, weeks ago and go through a process of trying to understand the “whys” so that I can figure out my next move. I find myself constantly thinking about others and how they view me, whether something I said, didn’t say, did, didn’t do had the right impact or not. I’ve become a horrible mind reader and I tend to blow things out of proportion and overreact to situations that had nothing to do with me…but I find that I oftentimes cannot stop. I too find that this stems from my childhood and trying to predict what my parents felt in order to avoid criticism, rejection, indifference or anger. I really appreciate this post as it is another step for me towards breaking free.

  15. By: Nikki Posted: 25th January

    Darlene, I’m there right now.
    Afraid to make ANY move.
    I’m so confused.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th January

      Hi Nikki
      Keep reading. There is a ton of information here about how I got through all this and came out, whole and ME, on the other side.
      Hugs, Darlene

  16. By: Lisa Posted: 24th January

    Thanks for sharing that with me. Your opening quote resonates with me so much. It’s relief to read it. Thank you. I do that a lot too. Whenever anything is wrong and I’m involved or nearby, I think it’s me. I make myself wrong. I’m getting quite good at not mind reading – i.e. I don’t rush to people’s help unless they ask me.
    I agree with Di when she makes the point that “every time I try to apply that knowledge to what happened to me I find myself making excuses over and over about how it was different for me and my parents because . . (insert reason why they had the right to treat me like dirt)” I swing in and out of it wasn’t all that bad to they didn’t mean it to there must be something wrong with me – I am mad, bad. I have now started working with children who suffer with self esteem issues and had lots of therapy – all my family have been threatened by this. They belittle my work, the challenge my methods, they bait me with ‘their point of view’. One of my sisters said I’m so selfish and it’s all about me. How dare I upset and say that about my parents after everything they’ve done for me. I’m the scapegoat and so they load the gun and I fire off all the feelings. I have so much anger. Not surprising really. I know all this – at some level but still emotionally it absolutely breaks my heart. I recently moved back in with my parents to support building up my own business. I went back thinking it would be different. OMG why did I think that? Still I want to believe that they love me and I’m not that bad at all. It has been worse and I’ve slipped. I’m in therapy and getting help again. I don’t tell them that. I have to manage it so I keep them at arm’s length but engage with them so they don’t know I’m upset. It’s exhausting. I am going to move out soon and I’m very scared of being on my own. I think I will be lonely but actually it’s quite lonely being a member of my family. I feel like an outside looking in. This time I’m not so angry, I’m sad. Very very sad. I’m so glad I’ve found this website. Thank you Darlene x

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th January

      Hi Lisa
      I went between sadness and anger for a while! Both were new for me. To feel SAD for myself and the child I was was uncomfortable but so validating! I needed to validate what happened to me. It was a big part of my healing.
      And then anger; I needed to feel that too ~ Anger about what happened to me, anger that I had not been loved in the true meaning of the word love. The action part of love. Anger that I had been blamed for what had happened to me.
      This was all very important.
      thank you so much for sharing!
      This is all so very important in the healing process
      hugs, Darlene

  17. By: LeighAnn Posted: 13th January

    I am so glad I found this site ( ;

  18. By: Helen Davis Posted: 6th January

    omg this happens to me all the time….. thank you for such a good explanation of what is going on in my head so that I can recognize what is really happening!!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th January

      Hi Helen
      I am gald that this resonated with you in a helpful way!
      Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: Michele Posted: 3rd January

    What a relief to read this post! I’ve struggled with self-blame and self-doubt for what seems like ages. It’s such a process to catch myself in it. And then it also seems that I somehow attrack people who are more than willing to ALSO shift the blame onto me and not accept any responsiblity for their own behaviors. I want to be the kind of person who is not afraid to admit to having a made a mistake without fearing others will see this as a weakness to use against me, and how to deal with it when it happens. I think I can maintain my integrity by being honest, but not accepting whatever someone may be trying to ‘dump’ on me, but it takes work…I usually get all riled up before I come to this conclusion when I’d just like to be able to identify it for what it is as it’s occurring, but unfortunately I’m not yet there. It was really nice to see that I’m not alone on this!

  20. By: FragmentedHistory Posted: 29th December

    The opening quote has put to words what I have been trying to for a few days. I just couldn’t articulate it so well. I was often told I was selfish because of how I interpreted everything to be about me – as in my fault. It further solidified the beliefs that I was just in the way and any endeavor to speak about my needs/wants /hurts was just too much and over dramatized. I struggle a lot with the mind reading this but in a different way. I can’t take people on face value, especially my husband. I’m often hearing what he is saying and interpreting the opposite, usually a negative about me or what I am doing.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th December

      Hi FragmentedHistory
      For me a huge ‘fog’ developed in my life because of the accumulation of all the b.s. and mind games that I lived with. Coming out of that fog is the process that set me free. I had to speak about my hurts etc. in a safe place for a while so that I could come out of that fog and see the truth and the mind games etc. I had to find a way to look at what happened to me without the baggage of trying to see where it was my own fault. The real truth (not the false truth that they had forced on me) is what set me free. There are tons of articles in this site about how I came out of that fog.
      Hugs, Darlene

  21. By: Kylie Posted: 21st December

    Hi Darlene,

    Yes, what you described in your post makes perfect sense. Its all this stuff that depression is made of.

    Darlene, wishing you a very happy Christmas for you and your family. Thanks for all your posts. I do read them and try and learn from them.

    Kylie

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd December

      Hi Kylie!
      Thank you and Merry happy Christmas to you and yours too!
      Hugs, Darlene

  22. By: Meg Posted: 1st December

    Di I feel the same way and for what it is worth I believe you about your mother. I’m sorry you came second to your mother’s co-workers, you didn’t deserve that.

  23. By: Meg Posted: 1st December

    Does this happen to me? You betcha!! Probably the weirdest thing though is that my mother created the need for reading minds and feeling guilty when I didn’t and then both parents were upset when I apologized “too much”. Well I apologized “too much” because neither of them would ever act like you were forgiven. They stayed quietly mad or never said “i forgive you”. It is rather funny when I look back at it now. They must have felt guilty.

    I still try to read my fiance’s mind, get anxious, and apologize for everything under the sun. I’m hoping it wears off with time. Thankfully he is a sweet, patient man.

    Does anyone else feel like this gets worse with stress?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd December

      Hi Meg
      It took a few years for me to have enough clarity and self awarenss to make changes in this area. (stress certainly does make it worse) As I became clear about where this originated in me and how I had learned to do it as a survival method, I became aware of when I was doing it and could stop myself from doing it. I had to learn some self talk methods, but there is hope!
      Hugs, Darlene

  24. By: Libby Posted: 30th November

    Oh Yes. Try to do what is right (as I think) and it turns out wrong/not what the other person meant or wanted…..Second guessing – used to do it ALL the time, don’t do it so much now…. I gave it up when I was too ill to care and have made big efforts not to get back into it..I think one of the effects of complex PTSD is that I struggle to conceptualise when it comes to relationships with my friends/family – my thinking tends to be very concrete. People around me are learning they have to say what they mean with me.. they now realise that inferences or subtlety is lost on me.. I don’t get it. Now that I understand that I am less hard on myself

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th November

      Hi Libby
      That is awesome that you are giving yourself a break and not being so hard on yourself. I found that a big part of the way I was controlled and manipulated by others was that they didn’t communicate clearly leaving me guessing. That way, they could always blame me for ‘misunderstnading’. It was all part of the fog storm.
      thanks for sharing,
      hugss, Darlene

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